When the Open Cup comes up every year, Sounders FC seems to be playing in a different gear than some MLS clubs.
Some point to the club's USL roots, where the Sounders advanced to the semifinals in consecutive seasons in 2007 and 2008 before leaving for MLS in 2009. Any way it is perceived, Seattle has a remarkable record in the tournament.
"What's driven that always is that if we enter something we want to do as well as possible and win it," Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said.
Sounders FC has had unprecedented success in the Open Cup.
From the inaugural season the club established that the annual tournament would be a chance for players to make their stamp on the organization. The players responded in kind, winning six matches on the path to capturing the 2009 championship in dramatic fashion, taking home the Open Cup title at RFK Stadium against a historically successful D.C. United team.
Seven different players scored for the Sounders on the path to the championship and Kasey Keller earned tournament MVP honors.
Seattle then rolled through the tournament in 2010 and 2011 to win three consecutive championships, earning berths in CONCACAF Champions League with each title and raising the profile of a club that quickly became wildly popular wherever it traveled.
Opening the door to international competition was another perk to winning those titles, as Seattle got the chance to see the level throughout the CONCACAF region. The club faced off with the best teams in places like Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras during three progressively longer runs through Champions League. That reached its pinnacle in 2013 when Seattle bested Tigres in the quarterfinals, becoming the first MLS team to knock off a Mexican side in the knockout stages of Champions League, only to fall to Santos Laguna in the semifinals.
For all its successes – Seattle reached the final again in 2012, falling in a shootout with Sporting Kansas City – Sounders FC also has an amount of revenge on its mind in this year's tournament. Last year, Seattle ventured across the country to face the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the fourth round, but couldn't get past the feisty NASL club, losing 1-0 to end the quest toward a fifth straight finals appearance.
That disappointment is now a new driving factor for Seattle as it enters in the fourth round against USASA club PSA Elite on Wednesday from Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, Wash.
"I'm excited to play. I know we won't take it lightly," Sounders FC midfielder Lamar Neagle said. "This is one tournament that Seattle has done well in in our history and we want to get our title back."
Sounders FC has never lost a competitive match at Starfire, which bodes well for Seattle, as the Sounders would also host the San Jose Earthquakes if they can advance past PSA Elite on Wednesday.
"Last year was a disappointment for us. So it's important for us to get off to a better start," Schmid said. "We've always done well at Starfire and hopefully we'll get off to a good start again."
This is the 101st year of the U.S. Open Cup. Seattle's run of three straight titles from 2009-11 is an MLS record. Wednesday's match kicks off at 7:00 p.m. with a live stream to the sold-out match at SoundersFC.com.